Piparo residents stay put, afraid of vandals

Afraid that their homes will be van­dalised if they evac­u­at­ed, some Pi­paro res­i­dents have de­cid­ed to stay put de­spite warn­ings that the rum­bling vol­cano will soon erupt.

Even though bar­ri­cades have been set up near the site, res­i­dents said peo­ple are con­tin­u­ing to go to the mouth of the vol­cano to per­form poo­jas, prayers and to watch the bub­bles of gas shoot up from the vol­cano’s fis­sures.


Boyo and Par­batie Suratt who live on the pe­riph­ery of the vol­cano lounged un­con­cerned in ham­mocks un­der their home when Guardian Me­dia vis­it­ed on Wednes­day.

Par­batie said dur­ing the last erup­tion in Feb­ru­ary 22, 1997, her three broth­ers were among the 14 fam­i­lies who lost their homes.

When they evac­u­at­ed dur­ing the last erup­tion, Par­batie said thieves pil­fered every­thing.

“This time we not mov­ing. In these times where we go­ing to find mon­ey to buy back every­thing? And we not go­ing in any com­mu­ni­ty cen­tre. If we have to evac­u­ate, we want a prop­er place to stay, “ she said.

Stand­ing on the gallery of his home, Boyo said he could see the bub­bles of green­ish gas and mud be­ing belched out from the bow­els of the vol­cano.

“On Sat­ur­day I stand up and watch but since then it get a bit qui­et. We can still hear the sounds like gun­shots but since the rains came it get qui­et. I don’t think it will erupt be­cause that is God’s work there. If this is the way we have to go, no­body but God could stop that,” he said.

Next door, Aneal Har­ri­lal said they too were un­will­ing to evac­u­ate.

Har­ri­lal said no prop­er arrange­ments were put in place.

“We are hear­ing that a meet­ing will be held to dis­cuss evac­u­a­tion but no­body has said any­thing and there is still many peo­ple com­ing to the vol­cano to see it. Peo­ple are push­ing down flags and poles and oth­er items in the mouth of the vol­cano, “Har­ri­lal added. He said cracks had de­vel­oped in his front yard and the rum­bling has con­tin­ued un­abat­ed.

At the Solomon’s res­i­dence, the cracks at the back por­tion of their home had widened by more than a foot.

The en­tire back wall had splin­tered to the roof and the fence was lop­sided.

A wa­ter line along the road be­came dis­lodged and a WASA crew was on-site to re­pair the leak.

Fi­del Solomon said they man­aged to re­move 90 per cent of their be­long­ings and like their neigh­bours, they too were wor­ried about thieves.

“This is a dan­ger­ous site yet peo­ple are still com­ing here to sight­see. They are bring­ing their chil­dren on top of the vol­cano, “ he said.

He said even though their home was a haz­ard they too had not ful­ly evac­u­at­ed.

“We packed up every­thing and if the time comes we will move, “ he said.

An­oth­er res­i­dent Shamshadeen Ho­sein slammed the gov­ern­ment for not cor­don­ing off the area and plac­ing se­cu­ri­ty per­son­nel on site.

“What is the plan? Yes, we have been go­ing on the site be­cause we have to see what is go­ing on, “ he added.

Se­nior geo­sci­en­tist of Touch­stone Ex­plo­ration Xavier Moo­nan is ex­pect­ed to lead a Min­is­te­r­i­al team to the site to­day. Moo­nan said they had no equip­ment to ac­cu­rate­ly as­sess when the vol­cano will blow but from re­cent drone sur­veys, it ap­pears an erup­tion will oc­cur very soon.

“We don’t have the type of sci­en­tif­ic da­ta that would be re­quired be­cause there has nev­er been fund­ing to sup­port such re­search and equip­ment, “ Moo­nan said.

Last May, the geo­sci­en­tist re­port­ed in­ter­est­ing changes on the sur­face and sub­sur­face of the vol­canic vents which erupt­ed on Feb­ru­ary 22, 1997, dis­plac­ing 31 fam­i­lies and killing live­stock and birds.

Dur­ing the erup­tion, thick warm liq­uid mud spewed up to 200ft in the air. The ex­panse of vol­canic dirt-cov­ered an area of 2.5 km.

Reporter: Radhica De Silva

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